1995 – 2012
Country of Origin
Birth – Death
1971 – 2019
Haitian-American Drag King Dred was one of the most prominent Drag Kings to emerge from the dynamic drag scene of New York City during the late 1990’s. Dred embodied the term “gender bender” long before it became common parlance. Moving with ease from male to female and showcasing an array of characters within one medley made Dred’s performances mesmerizing to say the least. Dred blurred and blended gender lines; made you question masculinity, sexuality, identity; challenged racial, social, gender stereotypes; and provided memorable, world class entertainment.
Mildred Gerestant began as a Drag King in December 1995 after seeing Drag King performances by Buster Hymen (Tracey Blackmer) and Justin Kase (Justine Keefe) at the infamous drag landmark, Pyramid Club, in the East Village, New York City. Following her first encounter with Drag Kings, Mildred was encouraged by Buster Hymen to participate in The Drag King Dating Game. Buster taught her the drag how to’s so that Mildred could make her first Drag King debut as Dred. That same night, Dred met fellow Drag Kings Mo B. Dick and Labio. Mo then pursuaded Dred to enter Club Casanova’s first Drag King contest where Dred won making it the first of many Drag King contests s/he won in rapid succession.
From Lucas Hasten’s interview with Mildred: “She (Mo) had this contest coming up, a drag king contest, and she encouraged me to enter it.” Gerestant, however, was still too frightened to commit to the appearance; it was Fischer who pushed her to do it. Dred won that competition and thereafter began his longtime association with Club Casanova. Gerestant credits the other kings with bringing her into drag and making her feel welcome there. “Mo B. Dick helped me,” she said,”she pushed me to really do drag. And Buster Hymen helped me. It’s always good when people, your peers, are helping you get started. And there was real companionship there, and we did a lot of shows together.”(1)
Club Casanova was the world’s first weekly Drag King party produced by Mo B. Dick starting in 1996 and lasted 2 years. Dred was a permanent fixture and performed there regularly. In the spring of 1998, Dred joined the California portion of The Men of Club Casanova tour of US and Canada performing with the group in San Francisco, Los Angeles & San Diego. Club Casanova was where film director Gabriel Bauer came to know the Drag King scene and was inspired to create the successful documentary Venus Boyz that heavily featured Dred.
And picking up on the burgeoning Drag King scene, the popular lesbian dance party Her-She Bar hosted a series of Drag King contests in 1996. Dred won every round to become Her-She Bar’s reigning Drag King winner. This spawned a frenzy of interest and club appearances throughout all of New York City.
Dred quickly garnered an international reputation as a phenomenally skilled gender bending performer using costumes, wigs, signature dance moves and an apple. Her performances paid homage to popular black singers: Isaac Hayes’ Shaft, Sly Stone, Busta Rhymes, Puff Daddy, Run D.M.C., Jackson 5, Prince, Biggie Smalls, DJ Kool, Aretha Franklin, Lauryn Hill, Grace Jones and more. S/he embodied the mackdaddy, superfly, gangsta, pimp, rapper and goddess supreme effortlessly in one performance medley. Dred also collaborated with fellow performers Drag Queen femme fatale Queen Bee Luscious and studly Drag Kings Shane and Mistah to create duets and group performances.
In 1999, Dred participated in the first International Drag King Extravaganza (commonly called IDKE) in Columbus, Ohio. This was a 3 day event that promoted community among Drag Kings on an international level. Dred’s performances were well documented in The Drag King Anthology edited by Donna Troka, Kathleen Lebesco and Jean Noble.
The fateful day of 9/11 in NYC was a tragic day for those who worked in the twin towers and for the world at large. Fortunately for Mildred (and us), she performed the night before and was too tired to work her data entry job and requested the day off otherwise she would have perished amidst the ruins. With gratitude we can say that drag saves lives.
In her book, 100 of the Most Influential Gay Entertainers, author Jenettha J. Baines, aptly describes Dred as the multi-talented actress and star of “The Dred Love Experience”. This is one of many books where Dred is extolled for her contributions on and off stage.
As listed on the website for Venus Boyz, here is Dred’s updated bio from 2004:
“DRED GODDESS is smooth-headed, Internationally known Haitian-American, multi-spirited creator, perfor-mance-artist, actress, activist, singer,comedian model-citizen, poet, educator, writer, inspiring filmmaker, choreographer and gender-illusioning woman – seen on HBO, MTV, Oxygen Network and one of the stars of the award-winning and world premiering film “Venus Boyz.” DRED’s film experiences include working with Steven Spielberg on “Terminal” where she sang a Haitian Creole hymn she wrote. She also does workshops on identity with kids, adults, and spirits, and speaks and performs at universities and shelters as well. Using theater, dance, film,cultural history, music, poetry, and LOTS of humor, DRED breaks down racial, sexual, religious, and gender stereotypes, and conventional roles created in society – creating a better under-standing and acceptance of the beauty of the expression of one’s individual truth. She also does characters and voices and her own facial-hair make up. DRED’s performances are humorous, lots of fun, and uses them to educate people about being open to all forms of beauty, all kinds of humans, and has been blessed to do it all over the world including the US, Korea, Australia, Croatia, Austria, Switzerland, Scandi-navia, Germany, and Brazil.
In the midst of her Drag King shows and performances, Mildred took her skills to theatre stages as well, acting in numerous plays and performing her one person show at Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Dixon Place, Black Box Theatre and Wow Cafe Theatre.
In 2011, Dred performed and served as a guest judge at the 16th annual SF Drag King Contest In August. Her final performance as a Drag King was at the annual Pow Wow conference in Chicago, IL in November.
In early 2012, Dred relinquished her Drag King identity to focus on her spiritual life far from the spotlight, constant hustle, and cheering crowds and subsequently changed her name to Light Ning.
On November 19, 2019 Mildred Gerstant aka Dred aka Light Ning died. We lost a friend, a legendary Drag King, a cultural giant, a queer renegade, an inspirational icon, a fierce force, our shining star and an overall wonderful human being.
Research Submitted by: Mo B. Dick – LA & NYC, USA
(1) Lucas Hasten completed his Master thesis entitled “Gender Pretenders: A Drag King Ethnography” for the Department of Anthropology at Columbia University in the City of New York in February 1999. This was taken from an interview with Mildred Gerestant
Closet Interview with StyleLikeU
Sept. 29, 2011
by Elisa & Lily, the mother-daughter founders of StyleLikeU
Assume Nothing video by Kirsty MacDonald
Nov. 1, 2009
Short film “Blending the female and male through MilDred” featuring artist MilDred Gerestant from the “Assume Nothing” Exhibition. This exhibition exploring alternative gender identity toured New Zealand Art Galleries and Museums for 18 months and features the photographs of Rebecca Swan and the films of documentary director Kirsty MacDonald.
For more information about the films please visit www.girl-on-a-bike-films.com
MilDred Gerestant, the artist formerly known as DRED
Progressive Humanitarian/Actress/Model Citizen/Healer/Activist/Haitian-American/Educator.
Aug. 25, 2009
When She was King: The Remix
At the Black Box Theatre
Video Credit: Joe E. Jeffreys
WOW Cafe NYC
June 8, 2008
video by Moira Cutler
Dred Love Slamming it up
June 3, 2009
SFDK16 at DNA Lounge
August 5, 2011
By Fudgie Frottage
POW WOW in Chicago, IL
Dec. 11, 2011
Drag king Mildred DRED Gerestant performing at POW WOW in Chicago, IL